Arthur's Blog: A Whole New Garden!

12th January 2016

Arthur's Blog: A Whole New Garden!

Within weeks of beginning my job as gardener at the Stoke factory, I realised that the large space that is the main factory courtyard was crying out for colour and a sense of life. The small walled courtyard garden is too much of a secret at times – being at the back of the gift shop, it’s not in the best place to ensure the maximum number of visitors to it. For this reason I saw the main factory courtyard, the entrance for many of our visitors and staff, as the prime place to start a whole new area of the factory garden!

I had just arrived back from spending the week with Sarah Raven at Perch Hill in September when the first of the courtyard concrete was triumphantly being lifted in preparation for the new raised rose bed. At the time of writing, the bed has now finally been fully planted, after being filled with 11 tons of soil! Already it looks as if it’s been there for almost ever, with its sleek black sleepers containing the sleeping beauty within as it sits alongside the café wall.

I wanted us to have a rose bed due to both my love of roses and them being the subject of one our most favourite and popular patterns, Rose & Bee. We get though tons of cut flowers here at the factory – just a single rose bloom takes the beauty of a bunch of cut flowers up to a whole new dimension. A lot of the newly planted roses and other plants are high in pollen and nectar too, so the new bed will attract lots of vital and fabulous pollinating insects – including, of course, bees! This means that you'll be able to actually see a real life rose and bee relationship occurring, which is part of what my job is all about – connecting our pottery with the flowers and chickens that inspire its concept.


Nothing beats the scent and style of a freshly cut rose of English garden origin – they have an incomparable individuality, being totally different creatures to the shipped in, greenhouse grown roses that you buy at the supermarket.

In Sarah’s rose garden she has trailed many roses for scent, cut flower production and resistance to disease. We no longer have the sulphur-packed air which garden roses flourished in 50 or so years ago; this means that plant diseases like black spot can be a real ailment to some varieties of old roses. For this reason I’ve planted lots of varieties of modern David Austin roses, which have all the beauty of the old roses but with more modern vigour and a longer flowering season.

Sarah has combined the roses in her garden with other beautiful flowering perennials to ensure a long season of colour and added interest. This is the style that I’ve taken inspiration from. Around the roses I’ve planted the blowsy and deep berry sorbet Oriental poppy ‘Patty’s Plum’, Penstemon which will flower into October, red fennel for frizzy clouds of smoky foliage and the pollinator mecca that is the plume thistle Cirsium rivulare ‘Atropurpureum’.

Hundreds of ‘Gentle Giant’ tulips will begin the season before the perennials and roses get going. The ones I’ve planted are a new Darwin hybrid type of tulip, and they should bloom in a huge range of pink to deep scarlet almost orange-punch-like colours. Once these have faded, alliums will pick up the colour baton with their purple, sparkler like flowers.

Some of our new roses to be found in our rose bed:

  • - ‘Tuscany Superb’ – this was once grown a lot at Sissinghurst castle in Kent by Vita Sack-Ville West, as was the similar ‘Tuscany’. These both flower with large open centres, so are fabulous for visiting bumble bees too.
  • - ‘Burgundy Ice’ – A newly-bred, deep purple, tea-styled rose which has been bred with the cut flower element in mind. I’ve also planted the recently bred ‘Darcy Bussell’.
  • - ‘Charles de Mills’ – A rose with great arching stems and lavish, highly scented flowers of tight petals, and one of good disease resistance. A recorded favourite of Monty Don’s!

Roses can be set now as bare root plants. At this time of year, rose suppliers have the best range of varieties to choose from. Roses are hungry plants which do best in full sun with a very rich, moist soil. They will arrive as they are described, plants with no soil! Due to this, soak them in a bucket of water over night so that they can rehydrate before you plant them. Matthews’s new Old Rose mug is one piece from our new spring range that I totally adore, and it’s helping me remain patient before the garden begins to properly awake.

Our bare root rose plants were supplied by SarahRaven.com and Britishroses.co.uk

Thanks for reading,
Arthur Parkinson

12th January 2016